Sound — 9
Going into dangerously 'kvlt' territory, only three copies were made of Swallow The Sun's first demo, 'Out Of This Gloomy Light'. If you aren't one of the lucky and/or obsessive few who own one of these demos, this new EP slaps it into a nice shiny super-jewel case for you. While final versions of all these songs appeared on their debut full-length, 'The Morning Never Came', there is still a high quality to them. It manages to prove also that the band's positively colossal sound is the work of the band themselves, and not a technically gifted studio lackey. The songs are fabulously well written, with excellent atmosphere and mix despite the clearly low-key studio job. ... now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the main attraction of this new offering, the brand new 34 minute title track. Something of this scale is not all that unfamiliar in doom metal circles, however Finland's Swallow The Sun have only ever recorded one song that extends past ten minutes, yet alone thirty. Of course, Swallow The Sun are not a band to disappoint, and 'Plague Of Butterflies' certainly doesn't change that. It comprises three movements, yet retains a commendable continuity; where each part flows naturally into the next. Sonically, it's the band's established melodic doom sound, as crushing as ever, but this one sees some interesting new developments. At points some black metal influence can be heard, through the sympho-BM tinged keyboard work of Aleksi Munter or, more prominently, through a new vocal style that Mikko Kotamki can add to his repertoire: A nice juicy black metal shriek that really works for those times when his clean voice and his absolutely stellar low growls aren't quite perfect enough.
Lyrics — 8
Trees and other foliage that reflect the truly relevant dark sorrowful abyss that is my metaphysical being, you know the drill. All jokes aside though, the lyrics in 'Plague Of Butterflies', penned by guitarist Juha Raivio, are very good. As you may have guessed, they are of a doom standard, nice and dark, and very stylised without sounding half as pretentious as most bands that write this way. There is a story-like quality to the way that the three 'chapters' of the song unfold, tightly bound together yet still holding the individual identity that is established by the music. However, the vocals alone are enough to support any integrity that these lyrics may or may not have, and the fact that these lyrics are solid anyway is merely a bonus.
Overall Impression — 9
As a project that allegedly began as an attempt to write film music, 'Plague Of Butterflies' is a great success as a piece of Swallow The Sun music. Whilst it at times lacks some of the direct punch that the band's usual shorter pieces have, it instead offers definitive proof that Swallow The Sun is not a one trick pony. Side by side, you can see the band's very earliest output and their most recent, and you can see that overzealous genre hopping is not what 'evolves' a band successfully. What evolves a band is something like 'Plague Of Butterflies', which toys with development and progression enough to stand on it's own two feet, but also owes itself to previous work.